The First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Pete Ogden, and a fellow Brit (despite living for a short time in Canada but mostly in the U.S. during these past 40 years and as editor of ERBania for even longer), was probably gently cajoled rather than proffered to be host for this year's gathering. Either way, this quiet, unassuming Englishman did Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom proud with the first convention of the new Millennium.
Pete had done most of the hard work long before the convention neared by finding a hotel site suited to our needs and two outstanding guests of honour committing themselves to coming. Indeed, Eleanor Holm, former Olympic swimmer and co-star to Glenn Morris in the 1938 film, Tarzan's Revenge, and Steve Hawkes, the star of two unauthorised Tarzan films and now running a big cat animal sanctuary, were prize catches for any convention. However, the fat was thrown into the fire when Lydie Denier, who played Jane in the early 1990's Tarzan TV series also offered to appear (see Beyond 30° W : LaurenceCon III in ERBAPA #70). This no doubt left Pete with a slight headache since he had already set his registration rates and many had already paid. The problem was eased slightly when Eleanor Holm unfortunately had to cancel her appearance due to ill health and I am sure that you will all join me in wishing her a speedy recovery.
Wednesday 20th June 2001
After enduring several days of rain in a typical English summer, I was looking forward to spending the next week or so in the sunnier climes of Florida. Catching a Delta Airlines flight out of Gatwick Airport, I was soon on my way to Atlanta, Georgia where I would take a connecting flight for the last leg of my journey into Tampa, Florida. However, as we arrived over the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida we could clearly see a storm raging directly over Tampa. After making several circuits during the next hour, the Captain finally told us that there was a small break in the storm that would allow us to land. For the next several minutes we had a very bumpy ride until at last we broke through the underside of the cloud layer and headed for the airport. Our landing was very hard and the brakes were applied immediately and we came to a very abrupt halt. And there we stayed… at the end of the runway. I was amongst several passengers that noticed this and began to feel this was not a safe place to stop. A few moments later, the Captain came on the air and told us that the runway we had landed on was meant for smaller aircraft and the turn off lane was too narrow for our plane. To attempt to do so would mean that we would surely end up in the mud. Thirty minutes later an airport tug was sent out to push us back down the length of the runway until we could safely turn off, further delaying other flights from landing as we cut across their path. We were never told whether it was pilot error or tower error that caused us to land on the wrong runway or even if it was because we were low on fuel and could not make the correct path, but we finally arrived some two hours later than scheduled.
After collecting my car, I headed to a nearby motel for the night as I figured that no one else would have turned up for the convention this early. How wrong can you get?
Thursday 21st June 2001
It was a short drive to the Ramada Inn and I was surprised to find several old friends had arrived the day before and were sat enjoying breakfast at Lorelei's Reef restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel. Reacquainting each other after almost a year between conventions is fun, listening and telling of our acquisitions over the preceding few months, finding what each of us have been up to and basically being with close friends once more. Mike Conran had also flown in the day before with his wife Linda and daughter Sara and was planning on an extended holiday that would take them all the way down to the Florida Keys. I met up with Mike and Bill Ross (who had turned up a couple of hours after I did) in a seating area on the first floor where Mike proceeded to hand out his long-awaited latest issue of ERB News Dateline.
Our host Pete Ogden showed up a short time later with his wife Joan. It has been a while since I last saw Joan, but she barely recognised me as my hair is cut a lot shorter since she had last seen me. Despite living in the States for most of their lives, Joan at least still misses England and comes back as often as she can for a holiday.
Just prior to going on a local book crawl, we were joined by Ralph Brown and Jerry Spannraft who wanted to see what I had brought along to sell in the huckster room. These included two Tarzan floor mats, a Tarzan board game, a clock that you put together yourself with variable faces, Tarzan drinking glasses and of course the second set of Tarzan McD figures. I did so well in the next 5 minutes that I had practically nothing left for the huckster room. The book crawl was interesting but only a few items were found of which most had nothing to do with Burroughs.
By the time we got back to the hotel, we found that Mike Shaw had arrived and was sat talking to Lydie Denier. The two had been on the same flight (although not sat together) and only introduced themselves to each other upon their arrival. Even though they had ordered a snack in the hotel restaurant, they were keen to join us for dinner after we had been told that alligator was on the menu in nearby Tarpon Springs at the Louis Papas Riverside Restaurant. Unfortunately our source was misinformed and there was no alligator to be had, but we decided to stay anyway. While we waited to be served, Mike and Lydie decided to take a walk along the river edge. As the saying goes, "Two's company, ten is a crowd." By the time our excellent dinner was over, the heavens had opened and we were subjected to a dreadful downpour as we slowly made our way back to the hotel.
Friday 22nd June 2001
At breakfast the following morning I found George McWhorter and Bobbie Rucker sat in the restaurant. It had been unsure whether George was even going to be at the convention as he was due to go into hospital the following week for an operation on his gall bladder. He was looking a bit tender to say the least but we were glad to see him and everyone wished him the very best. Another of the "walking wounded" was our own Bob Cook who had just had a toe amputated. Unfortunately for Bob, he was to go back into hospital after the convention as the infection had spread further than at first thought and more surgery was needed. We're all rooting for you Bob!
On the top floor of the hotel, overlooking the bay, Pete Ogden was opening the Huckster room. It took a while for those that had items to sell to set up their tables. One of the first was our guest of honour, Steve Hawkes along with his wife Lee. Steve had several printed shirts and photos available to sign, many taken with the big cats that he takes care of at his sanctuary. I was later to take Lee and Bill Morse down to Kinko's where Lee mentioned that she first met Steve on a visit to the sanctuary where it was love at first sight - but not with Steve - but with the cats! I am not certain of Steve's age, but he still has the physique of a powerful body builder with a huge barrel chest and solid arm muscles, no doubt earned through years of wrestling with his cats. His skin is almost black in parts from continuous exposure to the Florida sun (which had somehow disappeared during the duration of the convention) and shows little sign of the serious burns he suffered in his last aborted Tarzan picture with co-star, Kitty Swan. Steve is hoping to cash in on the Tarzan name by renaming his sanctuary with it included so that it would help to pay for the high cost in keeping the cats. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that the lawyers at ERB Inc. will agree to such a venture (despite Steve's best intentions) without royalties being paid.
Lydie Denier made her appearance a short time later wearing her Jane costume from the T.V. series. Taking moments from signing a multitude of stills that she had brought along and posing for the camera with every hot-blooded male at the convention, Lydie was definitely a hit with everyone.
With the help of their son Wayne, Pete and Joan put on a fine spread at their home not too far from the hotel. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to chat and know other Burroughs fans as we sat and ate by the pool. During his time at the convention, Steve Hawkes had his mind on one of his cats back home that had not been eating of late and he was becoming increasingly concerned about her health. With that in mind, he told Pete that he would be heading home the next day. As the Saturday night banquet is normally the time that awards are presented to guests, it was decided to bring forward the event so that Steve could receive the Golden Lion Award personally.
Inside their home, Pete was showing off his Burroughs collection that he has amassed over his lifetime. With samples of artwork adorning the staircase walls to the wide variety of U.S. and British editions in his book room upstairs, it was a collection to be envied. Steve Hawkes was at last beginning to relax amongst the Burroughs fans and took great delight in regaling stories of his film work and of his animal sanctuary. One of his tales was of a workman that came to call and went to place his toolbox on the floor. However, one of Steve's tigers was occupying the floor space at the time and the workman, thinking the tiger was just a rug, he moved the cat's tail out of the way. That did not go down at all well with the tiger, which suddenly turned its head and let out an almighty growl. The poor workman fled the house not bothering to gather up his tools on the way out.
As the evening wore on, one group led by Wayne Ogden took off to go to a nearby night club district which is closed off to traffic so that the revellers can safely stroll from one dance bar to another. A small group of us headed back to the hotel and spent the evening propping up the bar and entertaining the barmaid… or did she entertain us?
Saturday 23rd June 2001
The Huckster Room began as it had left off the afternoon before with people still finding the occasional item to fill their want list. Those that were not interested in buying or selling were to be found in small pockets discussing their favourite subject. Just as Lydie Denier was wearing her Jane costume, Pete and Joan Ogden showed up with their young granddaughter wearing a replica of the Jane costume from the recent Disney film. With all the play-acting that only a child can give, she posed happily for the cameras as they clicked away.
As the morning wore on, a slightly larger group than the one on Thursday night once again went looking for alligator for lunch. We eventually found it at a place called Whiskey Joe's that sits on the shore of the bay. Unfortunately the alligator comes breaded and is supposed to be dipped in a sauce to eat. But we found that there was more breading than alligator and the taste was almost indistinguishable.
As we returned to the hotel, we found that Pete had already began showing four of the new Legend of Tarzan episodes that Bill Morse had successfully negotiated with Disney to give us a sneak preview. There was only time to see three of the four episodes because of the scheduled auction, but everyone appeared to enjoy the shows apart from some criticism that Tarzan was still moving around on all fours.
The auction, as on previous occasions was once again led by Bill Ross and brought in a very tidy sum to help finance the publication of the Burroughs Bulletin. However, on this occasion there was one extra special and very unusual item that came up for auction. Lydie Denier offered herself to be auctioned off and the winner could spend 30 minutes alone with just her and a bottle of wine. With more than a few attendees thinking of their wives back home, it was left to a handful of bachelors to do the bidding. In the end, former APA member Tracy Griffin was the winning bidder (with a little help from Jim Thompson) to a rousing cheer.
The traditional Saturday evening banquet was held in an adjacent area to the huckster room on the top floor. Steve Hawkes had had some good news earlier in the day that his sick cat had at last taken some food. Encouraged by hearing this, Steve felt that he could stay a few hours longer and attend the dinner. Shortly after everyone had finished eating, George McWhorter once again presented Steve with the Golden Lion award. While still standing, George also presented Lydie with a similar trophy. At this point, Steve finally made his departure from the convention as he had a 3-hour drive back to the sanctuary.
Rather than give any kind of speech, Lydie requested the audience to ask her questions about her time on the Tarzan show. With great openness, Lydie was more than happy to talk of some of the happenings that went on behind the camera as well as in front. She also reiterated the fact that there never was any romance between herself and Wolf Larson (as he had gone on record as stating in an earlier press interview). Earlier in the convention, I had asked Lydie about the three black actors (one in each season) that appeared in the TV show and why they changed the character for each season. Apparently, grim faced Malick Bowens who appeared in the first season as Simon died suddenly. Errol Shue took the role of Jack but had enough by the end of the season and quit. William Taylor became the third actor playing the part of Dan and would have stayed on for the fourth year had it not been for the sudden death of Sean Roberge (who played Roger) in a car accident shortly after the third season ended. Lydie also told me that after season one of Epic Adventures of Tarzan ended, there were two auditions carried out simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles in a search for an actress to play the role of Jane. It turns out that it was all just a publicity stunt as Lydie Denier had already been signed up to play the role.
After group photographs were taken of the ERB-APA members (personally I think it's time that group photos should be called for all attendees, not just those belonging to the APA), the board members of the Burroughs Bibliophiles retired for their annual meeting.
Sunday 24th June 2001
Shortly after the convention had come to a close the night before, myself, along with several others visited the nearby vicinity known as Ybor City to enjoy the local night life. It was there that I learnt that Lydie (who spent most of the time enjoying herself on the dance floor) had an early flight home. Around 2:00am, Mike Shaw approached me and asked if we could take her in my car to the airport which meant getting up at around 5:30am. Back at the hotel having barely closed my eyes, I was awoken by my wake-up call. It took less than ten minutes to get to the airport and drop Lydie off. Bidding a fond farewell to a very attractive lady and a wonderful guest, we headed back to the hotel. I immediately went straight back to bed but Mike had agreed to go off with several others to travel somewhere up State and see the collection of another fan.
I eventually got up for a second time that morning for the farewell breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Earlier in the convention I had told several people that I intended to visit DisneyWorld (or to be more specific, the Animal Kingdom) to see the live action Tarzan Rocks stage show. This was the first stage show created after the release of the Disney film (subsequent live action shows being the Tarzan Encounter in Disneyland, France and the Disney on Ice feature, Jungle Adventures which is still touring both the U.S. and Europe). So, a little later than intended, I headed for Orlando accompanied by former APA member Tracy Griffin and Capital Panthan, Steve Wadding.
The show itself is very entertaining and as the title suggests, it is a rock show with a band playing all of the Phil Collins songs from the film and dancers dressed in ape and other jungle animal costumes. The tree surfing sequence from the film is recreated by the apes on roller skates gliding along ramps created so that may do somersaults and others that literally take them through the audience. Tarzan and Jane make their appearance almost twenty minutes into the show and perform a ballet routine on the ropes high above the audience to a rapturous applause.
Steve, Tracy and I saw the show twice during our stay at the Animal Kingdom and I managed to capture the event on videotape for posterity.
A short time later after taking a last look around the park, we headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately we missed the remaining group members who had gone for dinner after having spent the day at the home of Pete Ogden, browsing through his collection and watching all four episodes of the Legend of Tarzan on tape once again. Not knowing where they had gone to eat, we made our own plans and finding a likely restaurant from the choice of advertising brochures in the hotel lobby, we headed out towards Clearwater for dinner. On the way, we noticed a couple of Gentleman's Clubs and vowed to stop off there upon our return. The long narrow causeway across Old Tampa Bay was the scene of some selfish driving by certain drivers who kept their cars in cruise control mode and basically blocking the highway, causing other road users to become particularly irate. I figured it best to stay clear of the problem and hang back, leaving others to vent their hot blood upon one another. Eventually we arrived on the Gulf coast and found the restaurant. The establishment was a typical rustic sea front house that had been converted with the front veranda enclosed to extend the interior seating area. The bare floorboards and rickety tables probably did not give off the best impression, but no doubt during the daytime, beach-goers care little for creature comforts as long as the beer was cold and the food was good. I gave up drinking years ago but I can certainly vouch for the food that was superb (including their alligator appetiser that was far tastier than we had earlier found at Whiskey Joe's).
We did not stay long in the area after our meal and headed back towards Tampa. As we pulled up outside one of the two Gentleman's Clubs we had seen on our outward journey, we noticed that there was only one car parked outside. This gave us the impression that it was not particularly popular by the locals unlike the adjacent establishment where more vehicles were parked. Paying our $10 entrance fee, we walked in. So far that day, I had done a great deal of driving and the thought of sitting down with a cool drink (even though it was only coke) and watching beautiful girls dance to music that was not over loud, suited me to a tee. While Steve showed that he was an old hand at such establishments and was ready to part with his money for that little extra attention, I was more than happy to sit back and enjoy the show.
That idea soon changed when a young, extremely pretty and very shapely blonde came over and sat by me. At first I tried to express my tiredness but her striking beauty and winning smile soon managed to loosen me up… and my wallet if I recall correctly! For the next three hours, I had the undivided attention of a beautiful Hungarian lap dancer named Sheila. Somewhere behind me, I guess Tracy and Steve were enjoying what was going on (or off) on stage while in between the numerous personal dances, I was more than content with the company and conversation of a very agile young lady all to myself.
By 1:30am, it was time for Sheila to call it a night and gave me a farewell kiss as she left. It had been a long day and the cramp in my muscles was beginning to have its effect as Tracy, Steve and I also decided to leave.
By the time we got back to the hotel, my roommate Mike Shaw had already turned in for the night and had been asleep until I accidentally woke him up as I entered our room. But he was little concerned about his interrupted rest and instead wanted to hear all about the events of my day.
Monday 25th June 2001
When I went down for breakfast, I found there was still a handful of fans at the hotel although most were ready to leave at various times throughout the day. Inevitably, someone blabbed about our evening out the night before and of course everyone wanted to hear more.
A short time later, Mike Shaw, Tracy Griffin and myself decided to head back out to Clearwater to go on a dolphin watch in the Gulf of Mexico. Our journey was far more relaxing than the previous night and upon our arrival we chose one of several vendors to take us out. Unfortunately business was slow and as we were their only customers, it was not financially viable for them to take us out and therefore refunded our money. All was not lost as another boat nearby was all set to leave and we quickly joined them. The bright blue skies were clear, the water was calm and the sun shone hot and bright as we set out across the Gulf in search of dolphins. It is obviously a hit-and-miss affair searching for dolphins and although we caught an occasional sight of them, for the most part it turned out to be a disappointing no-show.
After going to lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed back to Tampa where we dropped Tracy off at the airport in the late afternoon. Only Mike and myself then remained and he wanted to gain a first hand experience of the night club I had gone to the previous evening. Forcing myself to go along with his wishes, we entered the establishment at around 9:00pm. Barely had we sat down and ordered our drinks when we were greeted by the lovely Sheila who had seen us walk in. The club, like most others of its kind, has a strictly hands-off rule and the girls do not go fully nude although very little is left to the imagination. Feeling like Michael Palin in the film The Missionary, I spent the next four hours trying to correct Sheila the error of her ways, but alas her dress kept slipping to the floor. But for all my efforts and the promise of yet more money, the best I was able to do was manage to get her to swap her knickers for a far more modest g-string…
Just where did I go wrong…?
Tuesday 26th June 2001
Mike had an early flight home the next morning and I took him to the airport before I returned to the hotel for breakfast. Twenty years earlier I had visited the United States for the first time to see the first ever launch of the Space Shuttle. At the time, I had felt it was a once in a lifetime trip and never for a moment did I ever imagine that I would return to these shores. Now on my 29th trip (with one more planned later in the year for the MMA Symposium in Pontiac MI and the ECOF gathering In Binghamton NY), I wanted to revisit Cape Canaveral. The Cape has changed enormously in that time and there is so much more to see and learn what NASA is doing and their development of the exploration in space.
Wednesday 27th June 2001
As I packed my suitcase ready for the evening flight home, I could not help but feel a tinge of sadness that another trip was nearing its end. The past few days had been enjoyable ones and spent with some very special friends and my only saving thought was that in a just a few more weeks, I would be back to do it all again. But before it did come to an end, I made a last visit to bid farewell to our convention hosts Pete and Joan Ogden and to thank them for a wonderful time. It also gave me yet another opportunity to take a more leisurely look around Pete's ERB collection and also to watch the remaining two TV episodes of the upcoming Tarzan animated series.
I was expecting a little less excitement on my homeward bound flights than I had on my arrival. Hopes of that however were dashed with the news that our plane had been struck by lightning on its inbound flight and needed to be thoroughly checked before it was put back into service. The delay almost made me miss the connecting flight at Atlanta and I surely would have done had I not ran through the airport terminal.
Going to ERB conventions has it all if you care to look for it - good friends, good conversation, great guests, golden sands, calm seas, a hot burning sun, local tourist attractions and theme parks, airport dramas, beautiful naked girls, and a little exercise to finish it off. What more can a person ask for?
Well, maybe just a little rest…
This article first appeared in ERBapa #72 Visit the Laurence Dunn: ERB Traveller Site
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